Up until this past fall, I was dead set against The Cry Room. My reasoning was concrete: they promote disunity, they segregate, they give the impression that the parish doesn’t want kids. They do nothing to transmit the dignity of all humanity as saved by Christ Jesus; they don’t respect the call of baptism and our right to be in church, worshiping, as a part of this community; they become the excuse not to be a full and active participant in the Mass, they’re bad, bad, bad. It doesn’t help that at the church we’re in, the cry room (up until recently) had been filled with toys and books galore, and was often used by a number of parishioners for a place to sit and ‘observe’ the Mass, as if it was some type of entertainment while their kids played around and conversations abounded. I can still look at that situation and say, ‘that is a bad use of a cry room.’ But my overall perception changed after meeting a young mother and I’ve questioned all my motives since.
In November I wrote an article about meeting a new mama who was on the outskirts of the faith community. She seemed a bit nervous and unsure where she could fit in. She was quite perplexed how it could be possible to bring her sweet newborn to church because of “all the fuss” she might make. She indicated it was overwhelming to think that she could possibly manage it without feeling like she was drawing too much attention to herself and her baby. How could she nurse? What would she do if she spat up? Screamed during an inappropriate time? It was just so.much.pressure.
Now, we can come up with a million reasons why none of these questions have any substantial validity (or any pastoral leg to stand on), but our words have no impact upon this woman when we are afar. Can you personally speak with this young mama? Are you physically going to provide her an ‘in’ to being at Mass with her precious babe? I tried. I offered for her to come and sit with us and see how normal looks with our family. I’m not great at defending the faith, or writing great inspiring works of theology, or even just being fully present to the readings and homily at Mass. But the thought of helping a Mama be comfortable in our worshiping community by inviting her to sit with us, where I can run blocker to any evil-eye or snort in indignation at her babe “fussing,” rouses me to unfathomable super-hero abilities. Or, at least, that’s how I picture it.
Bring me the wounded, nervous mamas. I can run blocker. It might be the only thing I can do, but gosh darn it, I’ll do it. Happily. I want every mama and papa who is nervous about how to “be family” in church to be there. My community is less without them there.
But I can’t reach every new (or experienced) parent and offer this to them. Firstly, they’d likely attempt to write me off as that crazy church lady. They might be right, but I’d at least be on their side. Secondly, I don’t know them. And as much as we want every parish out there to emulate hospitality to those on the outskirts, we’d be lying if we said they all do it. Many churches are unfortunately inhospitable, for reasons that are too numerous to get into here. So what do we do? How can we welcome those on the outskirts when our community of worship has no sources of good, solid hospitality?
Even after I invited her to sit with my family at Mass, she wasn’t taken in (perhaps not shockingly). But when another mom mentioned that there was a cry room, I saw her ears perk up. “Well, if I could take her out and tend to her and nurse without feeling like I’m being watched…”
The cry room became her “in.”
I still don’t like the overall message of cry rooms or how they can be abused. I wish that every community was so hospitable that they weren’t even a word that would be recognised in churches. But we often fail in that. If the thought of the cry room as a way to manage the pressure is what will bring her family to church, then I welcome them! My hope is that these nervous parents will come and in the experience of the community, they’ll say to themselves after, “Why did we ever think we needed the cry room?”
In discovering that for some people it is a means to encounter Jesus, I have found that I cannot be so dead-set against The Cry Room. But it is my hope that in the joy of the community, all thought towards it will be completely forgotten.
Cry rooms – yea or nay?
Copyright 2015 Jane Korvemaker.